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Hot Springs National Park in Arkansas Has Lasting Warmth and Charm

I live in Houston and have worked as a nurse. I have a lifelong passion for traveling, nature, and photography (preferably all together!).

Mission Revival style Bath building — Bathhouse Row at Hot Springs, Arkansas.

Mission Revival style Bath building — Bathhouse Row at Hot Springs, Arkansas.

Hot Springs

Growing up as a child, I had heard about trips that my grandparents had made to Hot Springs National Park in Arkansas, and it always sounded intriguing to me. Springs bubbling up out of the ground or water running down hillsides emitting steam seemed unique and certainly out of the ordinary. I wished to see this in person someday.

Bathhouses, where people could bathe in the naturally occurring hot water, and after bathing, get massages, seemed exotic to me as a youngster. When my mother and I planned a trip to Arkansas and Missouri in September of 1995, I ensured that our route would go through Hot Springs, Arkansas.

There were two reasons. One was hearing about it from trips that my grandparents had taken. And the number two reason is that I have always loved seeing our national parks and had hoped to one day see them all.

Urban National Park

Hot Springs, Arkansas, is the only urban national park in existence in the United States of America. Most people think of vast expanses of natural beauty when thinking of national parks. The setting of this national park is unique. Established in 1832 as Hot Springs Reservation, this set-aside area began to protect the many hot springs that flowed from the base of Hot Springs Mountain.

People had discovered this site thousands of years ago. Artifacts from Native Americans, perhaps 10,000 years old, have been found in this area. They undoubtedly came to bathe and drink the clear waters, as well as hunt and live in this beautiful area.

Scientists have determined that the waters coming from these springs are approximately 4,000 years old or more. 850,000-gallons of mineral-rich water pours forth daily.

NASA ( National Aeronautics and Space Administration) folks discovered that the most important thing about this particular water is that it is naturally sterile! Because of this, the storage of rocks found on the moon is in this pure water.

The capping off of most of the springs are to protect the water from contamination, but a few are allowed to run free so that people can see what this area would have been like when the native people first discovered it.

By protecting the springs, people can bathe and drink these pristine waters without having the water treated with artificial chemicals to purify it. There are public fountains with the hot springs bubbling up where people are welcome to drink or even fill containers to take with them.

The water averages 143 degrees Fahrenheit or 61 degrees Celsius and therefore emits steam wherever it flows and hits the cooler air temperatures.

Bathhouse Row

For many years, people thought that the chemical composition of the water would heal many ailments. Because of this, an industry sprung up around these hot spring waters.

The warm waters would have been soothing for people with arthritis and similar conditions, and the massages were relaxing. Whether or not healing took place for diseases, people kept coming to Hot Springs as the word spread about these warm and mineral-laden waters, especially as our population became more mobile with the automobile industry's growth.

A group of nine buildings built and devoted to this water-based industry became known as Bathhouse Row.

The Grand Promenade

There are also hiking trails and scenic drives in this Hot Springs National Park. The Grand Promenade right in the middle of town is a 1/2 mile hike and leads one to a point where one can look down upon the central business district. People with disabilities can easily access this area.

Of course, my mother and I drank some of the mineral-rich Hot Springs water while there, and it is pleasant tasting.

This was part of the rehabilitation regimen for visitors to Hot Springs.     Folks would soak and bathe in the hot springs at a bathhouse and then spend the rest of their day walking in nature along the Grand Promenade Hot Springs National Park

This was part of the rehabilitation regimen for visitors to Hot Springs. Folks would soak and bathe in the hot springs at a bathhouse and then spend the rest of their day walking in nature along the Grand Promenade Hot Springs National Park

The Fordyce

The Fordyce was one of the bathhouses in Bathhouse Row. It was centrally located in the string of eight other bathhouses and had its steady clientele plus tourists passing through its doors in the height of activity in days past.

Originally the bathhouses were simply tents over the hot springs or similar elementary structures. As time passed, wooden buildings took their place, but they often burned to the ground. Eventually, what became Central Avenue in Hot Springs, Arkansas, was the protected creek put into a channel and roofed over and housed under a road.

The government took an early interest in protecting this unique area, and portions of Hot Springs, Arkansas, became our nation's eighteenth national park. Health seekers all across the U.S. sought the healing waters that naturally occurred in Hot Springs.

The bathhouses became beautiful buildings embellished with marble and tiled floors and walls, statues, stained glass, fountains, and other artful surroundings.
Each bathhouse competed with the other ones to lure customers into preferring their establishments for return treatments and entertainment. The playing of music and gambling took place. Dining rooms offered the best in food and drink. Meticulously addressed was every detail to make clientele want to return to that particular bathhouse.

The Fordyce was no exception. It exemplified the luxury offered to people seeking the healing waters and medical therapies provided in Hot Springs. The Fordyce bathhouse opened in 1915. The Fordyce name originated from Colonel Samuel W. Fordyce. He claimed that the healing waters emanating from the hot springs saved his life.

Visitor Center

Suspending operations in 1962, the Fordyce became a Visitor Center for the National Park Service and today is open to the public to view the rooms and exhibits from the past. My mother and I explored the building and marveled at the luxurious use of building materials, including marble, tile, stained glass, etc. The men's areas are separate from the women's.

Whichever bathhouse had been used by my grandparents, we now had a clearer understanding of why they enjoyed this place. Many of the original bathhouses today serve different purposes. However, one can still take in the luxurious spa experience and hot waters in the ones that are still operating, as in days past.

Vintage Postcards

Both of the postcards shown above were picked up by my grandparents when visiting Hot Springs National Park. The publisher for both of them was Connelly Press, Hot Springs, Arkansas. Both of them show the following:

"Genuine Natural Color Made By DEXTER PRESS, Inc., West Nyack, N.Y."

The writing on the back of the first postcard portrays this:


Hot Springs National Park - Arkansas - The Finest in the World - Byron L. Neimeyer, Manager"

On the second postcard, it reads:


Mr. and Mrs. H. Y. Westbrook, Owners-Managers

All new construction, furnishings. Tile baths. Kitchenettes if desired. Thermostatically controlled heat and Air-conditioning. Maid service and free television in rooms. Sleep in comfort and cleanliness. Plenty of parking space. Restaurants nearby. On Arkansas Hwy. 7 and U.S. Hwy. 70 at 815 Park Avenue, Hot Springs National Park, Arkansas. Phone NAtional 3-0297."

It is fun to see vintage postcards of what my grandparents experienced. Just knowing that we were retracing some of their steps made it enjoyable for us as well.

Hot Springs Mountain Tower

My mother and I walked on the Grand Promenade in town and had wandered through Arlington Park. We had viewed and drunk from hot springs. Before leaving Hot Springs, Arkansas, we made one additional stop in the park.

High above the city of Hot Springs on a hillside sits a 216 foot Mountain Tower. One can see a beautiful panoramic scene from the top of the structure. Looking down on Hot Springs, one also views the Ouachita Mountains and surrounding Diamond Lakes amidst much greenery.

Initially built in 1877 by Enoch Woolman, it was a 75-foot structure. After being struck by lightning and being burned, a second tower was built and made of steel. Standing 165 feet tall and named the Rix Tower, it stood for over 60 years until being replaced by the Mountain Tower standing in this spot today.

An elevator takes one to the observation windows at the top of the tower for an excellent overview of the national park and surrounding area. It is worth a stop and look.

Hot Springs National Park is an area not only filled with 47 hot springs, but its warmth and charm will stay with you if you are lucky enough to visit this Arkansas site. Who knows, you may even find your own "fountain of youth" there!


This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

© 2009 Peggy Woods

Comments are welcomed.

Eric Caunca from Philippines on January 26, 2021:

I love it. Interesting.

Peggy Woods (author) from Houston, Texas on January 26, 2021:

Hi Eric,

The therapeutic action of mineral-rich hot springs attracts people worldwide to them in many different locations. This location is the only one that I know made into a national park. Thanks for your comment.

Eric Caunca from Philippines on January 26, 2021:

Hot springs actually can cure some illnesses. It has scientific basis. They are rich in mineral that help to cure nutrients deficiency. It also has an anti-bacterial property.

Eric Caunca from Philippines on January 26, 2021:

Hot springs actually can cure some illnesses. It has scientific basis. They are rich in mineral that help to cure nutrients deficiency. It also has an anti-bacterial property.

Peggy Woods (author) from Houston, Texas on January 26, 2021:

Hi Christy,

I am pleased that you can travel virtually by reading some of my articles. Thanks for your comment, and I am glad that you also liked the map photo.

Christy Birmingham-Reyes on January 25, 2021:

It does look and sound charming, indeed! I like that you even included the map. Your guides always have me traveling in my mind close by where you are :)

Peggy Woods (author) from Houston, Texas on January 12, 2021:

Hi Paula,

I found the fact of NASA using the Hot Springs waters for moon rocks interesting also. Thanks for your comment.

Paula on January 12, 2021:

Very informative and enjoyable entry. Amazing fact that NASA used the waters for moon rocks.

Peggy Woods (author) from Houston, Texas on August 29, 2016:

Hi Glenis Rix,

Thanks for the rating and I am happy to know that you found this article about Hot Springs National Park interesting. My mother and I really enjoyed getting to visit there while on vacation one year.

Glen Rix from UK on August 28, 2016:

Lovely pictures and interesting history. I've rated **** :)

Peggy Woods (author) from Houston, Texas on September 21, 2014:

Hi Au fait,

So glad you liked learning about this most interesting national park which is so different from most of them in our country which are usually set in open wilder settings. Thanks for the shares. You are correct in that it is not that far distant from north Texas.

C E Clark from North Texas on September 20, 2014:

This is a very informative article. I didn't know the hot springs were sterile or that anything other than undeveloped land was part of a national park. Really enjoyed your photos as always, and learning about this park that really isn't that far away from North Texas.

Gave you 5 more stars, voted up, BAUI, posted on FB, pinned to my 'Travel' board, and shared.

Peggy Woods (author) from Houston, Texas on January 02, 2012:

Hello weski342,

Here is a link that will explain much of why many of the springs are capped in Hot Springs National Park: http://www.nature.nps.gov/water/Scoping_Reports/ho...

Lots of reading...but basically much of the water is redirected for many reasons including such things as flood control, contamination, etc. I think that you will find the link interesting.

So glad that you enjoyed reading this and hope you enjoy your retirement there someday. Arkansas is such a beautiful state!

weski342 on January 02, 2012:

My wife & I visit Hot Springs several times each year. Especially during racing season. It's one of our favorite places & we plan to retire there. One thing I've wondered for years & I don't understand the NPS reasoning is the capping of most of the hot springs. The only answer I've received was to prevent conntamination of the springs. Do you know why they're capped? I think it would be so exciting to see them flow freely again like they did for centuries. Now there just big green squares of concrete scattered on the side of the mountain with chains on top. Not very natural. I'm in my mid 40's. I was too young to experience Hot Springs in it's hey day. It's great to have sites like this to try to experience some of Hot Springs History. You have an awsome site. Thanks for all your work

Peggy Woods (author) from Houston, Texas on October 12, 2011:

Hi thelyricwriter,

So glad that you enjoyed this Hot Springs hub. Thanks for the compliments and votes. Appreciate it! :))

Richard Ricky Hale from West Virginia on October 12, 2011:

awesome, beautiful, and awesome, plus up. This is one of the best Ive seen Peggy. Great job. Love the map. I know you work your tail off on these and I commend your hard work to make a quality hub. Well done.

Peggy Woods (author) from Houston, Texas on October 11, 2010:

Hi Lorrie,

We did spend a bit of time but not long traveling through Hot Springs National Park in Arkansas. It would definitely be nice to return and take in some of those spa treatments and see more of the area. Thanks for the comment.

Lorrie on October 11, 2010:

I live in Hot Springs Village, about 15 miles north of Hot Springs, and having lived in Georgia all my life and never desiring to leave, I can say with confidence, I love it here! The hot springs draw all kinds of people in, from the cosmopolitan to the unsavory (Al Capone was a regular at the Arlington Hotel, we even had his car here last year). We have wonderful art galleries, & everything else you can imagine. Come spend some time with us!!

Peggy Woods (author) from Houston, Texas on March 14, 2010:

Hi frogyfish,

Glad that this visit to Hot Springs National Park brought back some good memories for you even if it has changed from the time of your visit to now. Sounds like your childhood swim in the hot springs and camping would have been so much fun! No wonder you remember it fondly. Thanks for the visit and comment.

frogyfish from Central United States of America on March 14, 2010:

Your delightful hub brought back memories of a childhood swim in the hot springs and a teen-age overnight camping there. I think it is past time for me to return...your pictures show that it is a 'changed place' now!

Thank you very much for sharing your info and pix!

Peggy Woods (author) from Houston, Texas on March 13, 2010:

Hello MagicStarER,

Thanks for reading this hub about Hot Springs National Park in Arkansas. At least you will have a "heads up" as to what you will find there when you get to visit in person. Hopefully you will be able to spend a bit more time there and enjoy the spa features, etc. Wish I was there right now getting a massage!!!

MagicStarER from Western Kentucky on March 13, 2010:

This is really interesting, Peggy! You did a great job, and now I am wanting to go there!

Peggy Woods (author) from Houston, Texas on June 10, 2009:

Hi kiwi91, Glad you liked the photos. Thanks for stopping by and leaving a comment.

kiwi91 from USA on June 10, 2009:

I've always found this place interesting, but I haven't been there yet. You've done it some justice, the photos look great.

Peggy Woods (author) from Houston, Texas on June 07, 2009:

Hi KCC Big Country, We satisfied our hearing about it as a kid...now it is your turn! If you go, let me know your impressions. OK?

Peggy Woods (author) from Houston, Texas on June 07, 2009:

Hi Ethel, Anything that is labeled a National Park is always interesting...at least from the ones I have thus far seen. This one is no exception. Thanks for reading and commenting.

Peggy Woods (author) from Houston, Texas on June 07, 2009:

Hi Pete, At one time all those bathhouses would have been filled with clients seeking cures or at the least, being pampered. Supposedly Jack Dempsey worked out in the Fordyce gymnasium. Probably other notable folks as well would have been seen there. Now you know! LOL

KRC from Central Texas on June 07, 2009:

I always heard about Hot Springs as a kid as well. I need to venture on up there. Sounds like fun!

Ethel Smith from Kingston-Upon-Hull on June 07, 2009:

Looks an interesting place and piece of history

Pete Maida on June 07, 2009:

I think 143 degrees would be rather toasty. I never knew there was a place where you would see bathhouses lines in a row.

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